Golden Hill State Park March lighthouse cover

Explore The Lake Ontario Seaway Trail

The Port of Rochester at the mouth of the Genesee River was once a significant destination for ships on Lake Ontario. Today, it is a stop along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, a 518-mile scenic drive along Lake Erie, the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, and the Saint Lawrence River.

To plan a memorable day trip, focus on the southern Lake Ontario shoreline between Fort Niagara and Fort Ontario and choose to explore either west or east of the Genesee River. Start the day by driving to the farthest point before slowly making your way back. Take your time on the scenic, winding roads and discover small farming and lakeside communities. Explore unique shops and restaurants and enjoy a relaxing day along the lake.

Fun fact: The Wyandot Nation named the lake “Oniatarí:io,” meaning “lake of shining water.”

Best of Rochester - Day Trips Around Rochester book

Day Trips Around Rochester, New York

West of the Genesee River

Consider taking the Parkway west toward Fort Niagara and New York State Route 18 on the way home. From west to east, you’ll pass the towns of Youngstown, Wilson, Olcott, Oak Orchard, Hamlin, Hilton, and Rochester’s Charlotte neighborhood.

Old Fort Niagara State Park Youngstown NY
Old Fort Niagara

Fort Niagara State Park

In Fort Niagara, at the mouth of the Niagara River on Lake Ontario, visitors can enjoy hiking, swimming in the pool, exploring the nature center, and, on a clear day, taking in the spectacular view of Toronto’s skyline. The Castle at Old Fort Niagara, which the French built in 1726, is the oldest building on the Great Lakes. The 1872 lighthouse at the mouth of the Niagara River is the fourth of its kind, but it is not open for tours. Admission fees are separate for the park and the fort.

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Old Fort Niagara

Old Fort Niagara served as a strategic stronghold for 300 years during the French & Indian Wars, War of 1812, Revolutionary War, and Civil War.

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Wilson Tuscarora
Wilson Tuscarora

Wilson Tuscarora State Park

This park offers a four-mile nature preserve trail along Twelve-Mile Creek and a guarded pebble beach.

Wilson Pier
Wilson Pier

Wilson Pier

Take a leisurely walk along Wilson Pier at the mouth of East Branch Twelve-Mile Creek.

Olcott Lakeview Village Shoppes
Lakeview Village Shoppes

Olcott Beach

Take a summer stroll through Krull Park, Olcott Beach Carousel Park, and the Lakeview Village Shoppes. These vibrant boardwalk shops offer lake-themed clothing and decorations. Don’t miss the replica lighthouse, open daily for visitors, and Ye Olde Log Cabin, open on weekends.

Golden Hill State Park March lighthouse
Golden Hill

Golden Hill State Park

Golden Hill, situated 30 miles east of the Niagara River at the northernmost point of Lake Ontario’s southern shore, offers some of the region’s darkest skies, making it an optimal location for stargazing or viewing the northern lights. The 1875 Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse provides stunning views and is a must-see for visitors. Admission fee.

Greater Rochester Region - Oak Orchard Point Pleasant Lighthouse
Oak Orchard at Point Pleasant

Point Breeze

A replica of the original lighthouse, which stood on the west bank of Oak Orchard River from 1871 to 1916, can now be found on the east bank of the river in Orleans County Marine Park. Visitors can climb the keeper’s ladder to the third floor of the lighthouse during museum hours.

perfect picnic spot hamlin beach state park
Hamlin Beach

Hamlin Beach State Park

The park offers seven miles of paved and dirt hiking trails and a self-guided tour of a historic CCC/POW camp. The lake shore is perfect for reading a book in the shade with your toes in the sand. In Area One, you can find green space, an unguarded beach, a kayak launch, and the Yanty Creek Environmental Nature Trail. Areas Three and Four have guarded swimming beaches, picnic tables, pavilions, playgrounds, bathhouses, and concession stands. Area Five has green space, an unguarded beach, and the Devil’s Nose hiking trail along the West Bluff.

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Hamlin Beach State Park

Hamlin Beach State Park has 7 miles of beautiful biking and walking trails, including a mile-long self-guided tour of a CCC/POW camp.

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Braddock Bay
Braddock Bay

Braddock Bay

The Braddock Bay Wildlife Management Area (WMA) includes Braddock Bay Park and many surrounding wetlands and bird migration paths. If you are driving along Edgemere Drive near the ponds or the parkway between Island Cottage and Bennett Road, dining at the Braddock Bay Tavern & Grill, or fishing in Salmon Creek, you are enjoying the beauty of the Braddock Bay WMA. The Town of Greece and the Department of Environmental Conservation partner to maintain the site, recognized as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. The DEC’s website describes the WMA as a “shallow water bay-marsh complex existing in five units along the Lake Ontario shoreline, ranging from two to six miles west of Rochester.” Visitors can explore different locations within the WMA, such as Owl Woods/Rose Marsh, Braddock Bay Marina, and Beatty Point.

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Braddock Bay Wildlife Management Area

If you’re cruising on Edgemere along the ponds, or on the parkway near Manitou, you’re enjoying the Braddock Bay Wildlife Management Area.

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Rochester Secret Hidden Sidewalk
Hidden Sidewalk

Hidden Sidewalk

To access the secret half-mile-long sidewalk, start at Ontario Beach Park in Charlotte and walk west along Beach Avenue. You will find the main entrances across from Clematis and Cloverdale Streets, with smaller entrances between roughly every fourth house. Note that the lawns, gardens, and docks along the sidewalk are privately owned and not open to the public. Only the sidewalk itself is available for public use and accessible only on foot.

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Rochester’s Hidden Sidewalk

To find Rochester’s hidden sidewalk, start at Ontario Beach Park and head west on Beach Ave. The two entrances are across from Clematis and Cloverdale Streets.

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Ontario Beach Park
Ontario Beach Park

Ontario Beach Park

At the northernmost tip of the city, the Genesee River borders the park to the east. Head to the sandy beach on Lake Ontario for a refreshing swim. Look for the blue accessibility mat near the bathhouse, which provides a smooth path from the boardwalk to the water’s edge. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely walk on the boardwalk and pier, indulge in the original 1902 Abbott’s Frozen Custard, ride on the 1905 Dentzel Carousel, and tour the 1822 Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse.

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Ontario Beach Park

Besides a sandy Lake Ontario beach with plenty of parking, enjoy the boardwalk, carousel, pier, and an original 1902 Abbott’s Frozen Custard.

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Charlotte Genesee Lighthouse
Charlotte Genesee Lighthouse

Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse

Constructed in 1822, this is America’s oldest surviving active lighthouse on Lake Ontario. To reach the 12-foot-high lantern room, you must climb a tight 40-foot-high spiral staircase, followed by an 11-rung ladder, and crawl through an opening in the ceiling. The view from the top is worth the effort.

Fun fact: The 1822 Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse may be the oldest surviving active lighthouse on Lake Ontario in America, but the decommissioned 1802 Gibraltar Point Lighthouse in Canada is the oldest lighthouse on any of the Great Lakes.

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Charlotte Genesee Lighthouse

You can climb the 40-foot tower in the Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse and enjoy the view of Lake Ontario, the Genesee River, and Ontario Beach Park.

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East of the Genesee River

The route from Fort Ontario to Rochester, primarily along Lake Road (County Route 1 and County Route 101) and New York State Route 104, passes through, from east to west, Oswego, Sterling, Sodus, Huron, Pultneyville, Webster, and Irondequoit’s Sea Breeze community.

Fort Ontario
Fort Ontario

Fort Ontario State Historic Site

Independently explore five historic buildings within the star-shaped earthworks overlooking Lake Ontario and the Oswego Lighthouse. These buildings were part of an active fort during the French and Indian War and the War of 1812, and in 1944, it became the only refugee camp in the United States for predominantly Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Admission fee.

H Lee White Maritime Museum
H Lee White Maritime Museum

H. Lee White Maritime Museum

The museum exhibits regional artifacts and historic vessels and offers boat tours to Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse. At the mouth of the Oswego Canal, it is the only maritime-themed museum on the American shores of Lake Ontario. Admission fee.

Park Owsego Light House
Breitbeck Park

Breitbeck Park

Between SUNY Oswego and the Oswego River, the park offers a sweeping view of the lake and features a historic bell tower, heart-shaped garden, paved walking loop, playground, splash pad, nine-hole mini-golf course, and concession stand.

Sterling Nature Center
Sterling Nature Center

Sterling Nature Center

Spanning two miles of cobblestone shoreline atop glacially formed bluffs, the center offers unique areas to observe wildlife. Eleven marked trails lead away from the visitor center to cross wetlands, woodlands, and fields. Along the way, you’ll find a dragonfly pond, the unique great blue heron rookery, and Lake Ontario overlooks.

Fair Haven swimming beach
Fair Haven Beach

Fair Haven Beach State Park

At one of the most beautiful locations along Lake Ontario, you can relax on the guarded sandy beach while enjoying the stunning view of the towering shoreline bluffs. Admission fee.

Chimney Bluffs State Park
Chimney Bluffs

Chimney Bluffs State Park

Rising 175 feet above Lake Ontario, the bluffs are fragile drumlins, like all of the truncated drumlins along this section of shoreline. It would be beneficial to bring water shoes for standing in the lake and sneakers for walking along the rocky shoreline. Admission fee, though you can park for free at the end of East Bay Road.

Fun fact: Drumlins are generally teardrop-shaped hills ranging from a few hundred yards to several miles long. They are composed of unconsolidated sediments, such as sand, gravel, and till, deposited by a glacier as it moves over the landscape. Concentrated between Lake Ontario and the Finger Lakes, this region of New York State boasts one of the most extensive drumlin fields in North America, comprising around 10,000 drumlins.

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Chimney Bluffs State Park

The bluffs in Chimney Bluffs State Park are fragile drumlins, like all of the truncated drumlins along this section of shoreline.

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Sodus Bay Lighthouse Museum
Sodus Bay Lighthouse Museum

Sodus Bay Lighthouse Museum

Perched on a bluff above the village, take a lighthouse tour and enjoy live music on Sunday afternoons overlooking the lake. Sodus Point has a resort-town atmosphere with a strip of bars and restaurants and a sandy beach next to the pier.

Camp Beechwood State Park
Camp Beechwood

Beechwood State Park

The Girl Scouts of the Genesee Valley operated Camp Beechwood between 1929 and 1996, when they sold the 150-acre property to the state. The park, now 250 acres and under the management of the Town of Sodus, offers several marked hiking trails through rustic woodland, shoreline, wetlands, apple orchards, and primitive campgrounds. The east entrance parking lot is closer to Maxwell Bay. Please note that there is no swimming allowed.

perfect picnic spot b forman park lake ontario
B Forman

B. Forman Park

Stroll above the water’s edge or kick back with a good read at this tranquil lakeside park.

Pultneyville Landing
Pultneyville Landing

Pultneyville

In this quaint lakeside hamlet, you’ll find the Williamson-Pultneyville Historical Society, where Salmon Creek flows into the lake. Here, visitors can enjoy the colorful Bicentennial War of 1812 Peace Garden. Down the street, you’ll find Gates Hall, a former 1825 church repurposed as a theater in 1867. It is the oldest continuously operating community theater in the United States.

Webster Park Lake Ontario Pier
Webster Park Pier

Webster Park

Enjoy panoramic Lake Ontario views from atop the bluff near Whitehouse Lodge or from the pier. Both sites are optimal for enjoying the sunset. Hiking enthusiasts will appreciate the park’s trails that wind through the forest and along the shoreline.

Irondequoit Bay Pier Light
Irondequoit Bay Pier Light

Irondequoit Bay

From April to October, the Irondequoit Bay Outlet Bridge is closed to vehicles while swung into the in-storage position to allow marine traffic to pass between the bay and Lake Ontario. During this time, you must take the seasonal detour over the Irondequoit Bay Bridge to get from one side to the other. In the off-season, the outlet bridge is swung into the in-use position and open for through traffic.

Durand Eastman Park Durand Lake east side
Durand Lake

Durand Eastman Park

In 1888, landscape architect Bernard H. Slavin designed this county park that covers 977 acres and includes five lakes, the two most prominent being Durand and Eastman Lakes. You’ll find a section of pedestrian-only roadway between Log Cabin and Zoo Roads that is perfect for a walk in the arboretum. Walk across Lakeshore Boulevard to explore the seven-mile Irondequoit Lakeside Multi-Use Trail, a paved sidewalk along 5,000 feet of Lake Ontario shoreline with a portion of wetland boardwalk. Additionally, there is a city-managed Lake Ontario swimming beach.

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Durand Eastman Park

Durand Eastman Park’s 977 acres include an arboretum, hiking trails around Durand and Eastman Lakes, and a swimming beach on Lake Ontario.

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Durand Eastman Park White Ladys Castle 3 Lakes Pavillion
White Lady’s Castle

Fun fact: Despite popular belief, the White Lady’s Castle at Durand Eastman Park is not an actual castle, but the façade of a former beach-side dining hall called Three Lakes Pavilion. However, rumors persist of a vengeful mother and her two large white dogs haunting the area.

Google Map of Locations

View the map separately here.

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9 Lake Ontario Lighthouses in New York

These lighthouses along Lake Ontario in New York are within a two-hour drive of Rochester. And where there’s a light there’s a sweeping view!

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Swimming Holes

On a hot day, you can sit under a waterfall, swim in a lake, or jump in a creek at one of these refreshing natural swimming areas.

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Water Trails: Over 50 Places to Explore Rochester’s Waterways

Paddle your way to peace and quiet along Rochester’s water trails. Use these launches for canoes, kayaks, and small motorized watercraft.

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50 New York State Parks Within a Two-Hour Drive of Rochester

Venture into one of these New York State Parks within a two-hour drive of Rochester and discover what makes them unique.

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🍎 Apple Everything! Rochester’s best ciders, fry cakes, fritters, pies, and more

Come mid-September, we begin to crave all things apple. Apple cider. Apple cider donuts. Apple fritters. Apple pie. And warm fry cakes.

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The Darkest Skies Near Rochester

Locations northeast of Rochester close to Lake Ontario, or south of US-20 in the Finger Lakes will offer the darkest sky near Rochester.

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18 Beautiful Boardwalks

These boardwalks are integrated into larger trail systems to assist individuals in navigating wetlands and conserving wildlife.

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Where are your favorite places along the Lake Ontario Seaway Trail?

Your insights and experiences are valuable. Please share them in the comments.

Debi Bower, Day Trips Around Rochester NY

Debi Bower is the founder and creative director of daytrippingroc.com and author of the award-winning book Day Trips Around Rochester, New York.

People often ask me if I get free access to places while exploring. The answer is no unless I’m invited to previews or granted behind-the-scenes access as part of my media role. Generally, I don’t mention my project, Day Trips Around Rochester, NY, because I want the same experience you would have. I create and share content simply because it brings me joy. I would appreciate your support—a cup of coffee or two to help fuel future field trips—if you have found valuable information here that has helped you explore the Rochester area.

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